Cause related marketing 101: Educate, educate, educate!

CRM1It is that time of the year when retailers are pulling out every stop in their little bag of tricks to get your attention and hopefully your holiday dollars. One of those shiny objects that some retailers use is called cause related marketing (CRM). Wikipedia does a nice job of explaining this phenomenon: “Cause marketing or cause-related marketing refers to a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a ‘for-profit’ business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit.”

Joanne Fritz at about.com recently wrote a blog post titled “Hasbro and Macy’s Invite Letters to Santa in Holiday Cause Marketing Campaigns“. She ended her post with this simple question: “Do you have a favorite holiday cause-marketing campaign? Let me know.”

As I sat here contemplating what my favorite CRM initiative has been throughout the years, I remembered that just last week my partner — John — returned from a business trip with a present for me from the Nashville airport. It was a new part of “Mens Lounge Pants” (or as I affectionately refer to them as: “Erik’s Comfortable Fat Pants”)

John purchased those pants for me because the tag said “Your purchase helps kids in need” and he knows that I love charities and for-profit business that help “those kids who need us most”. So, in his mind, this was a win-win because I needed a new pair of lounge pants and his retail purchase would also “help kids in need”.

When John went to check-out, he made an honest mistake and asked the cashier: “So, how does my purchase help kids in need? Which charities does your company support?”  Unfortunately, the cashier’s response was less than inspiring. She shrugged and pointed to a point of purchase coin box sitting on the counter top.

Needless to say, John’s enthusiasm for the brand evaporated and when he gave me the present my “blogger curiosity” went through the roof.

As I sat here contemplating Joanne Fritz’s question, I decided to do a little more research on my lounge pants.

After a good hour of clicking around, I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  1. This cause related marketing campaign is a little unusual because it benefits the company’s own corporate foundation and not an independently owned and operated charity. I liken this to McDonald’s supporting Ronald McDonald House. 
  2.  I’m still not very sure what the foundation actually does . . . training? programming? advocacy? conferences?
  3. This campaign is very glossy and slick. It is one heck of a “shiny object” that appeals to consumers.

However, Joanne Fritz hits the nail on the head in her blog post when she says that great cause related marketing campaigns focus more on the “cause” than they do the “marketing” (which does not mean that the marketing isn’t top-notch).

The big take away lesson for me from “Life is Good” is that effective CRM campaigns  must focus on education:

  • Employees must be able to talk intelligently about the cause, and
  • Consumers must be able to understand what their retail dollars are supporting.

I’ll end today’s blog post the same way Joanne ended her’s by asking you: “Do you have a favorite holiday cause-marketing campaign? Let me know.” Please click over to Joanne’s site and share your thoughts or scroll down and do so in the comment box below. If you want to learn more about CRM, I suggest clicking over to RetailMarketingBlog.com.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
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